Monday 30th November, 2009

Green fact or fiction?

Image courtesy Alex Brown

Is green marketing for eco-friendly brands all talk?

Don’t let PR fool you with green talk! Years of campaigning have convinced us that we must go green if we want to save the planet. But what exactly does ‘green’ mean?

Take the household cleaning industry. Their advertising campaigns often focus on the ‘greenness’ of their products to attract an increasing number of people sensitive to ecological issues.

“Our products are environmentally responsible, since they don’t contain chemicals,” said Julie Bishop, spokeswoman for Living Clean, a small firm based in Norwich that sells environmentally friendly household cleaners.

However, consumer enthusiasm for ‘natural’ has boosted misconceptions that such products are somehow safer. According to the UK Cleaning Products Industry, a leading association representing the household and hygiene products manufacturers, this belief is not supported by facts.

According to Dr. John Emsley, chemist and professor at Cambridge University, the basis of both natural and man-made chemicals, like the ones found in cleaning products, come from the 88 chemical elements that compose the universe. So the distinction between the two is somewhat blurred. ‘Natural’ products do not necessarily serve their purpose better than man-made products. Nor are they safer.

Sustainability is the key

The sustainability approach includes a variety of factors that must be weighed when purchasing a cleaning product.

At the moment, the massive demand for cleaning products cannot be met with products made from sustainable resources, such as palm oil, orange oil, or rapeseed oil. This is unfortunate as these ingredients provide the added benefit of being recycled from waste material, which helps governments overcome one of the greatest challenges in ensuring a sustainable economy for the long-term.

Product ingredients play a significant role in making a green choice. But effective performance is also a key factor. Concentrated ingredients make the average product bottle last between four and six months, reducing waste and carbon emissions linked to shopping.

Where a product is made plays also an important role too. Several manufacturers have ecological factories and green plants-manufacture is slowly developing in the UK. Emsley said: “The research is going slowly, but it is coming.”

Thinking about all these issues when purchasing a simple cleaning product is enough to give you a headache. But don’t worry: Many ‘green’ retailers have chosen online sales to cut carbon emissions linked to distribution. You don’t have to go out and tour the entire city to find the ‘green’ product you’re looking for. You can do it, ‘greenly’, by typing on your keyboard.

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